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as they played them; often where there is no paufe in the action, or where they thought fit to make a breach in it, for the sake of music, masques, or monsters.
Sometimes the scenes are transposed and shuffled backward and forward ; a thing which could no otherwise happen, but by their being taken from feparate and piece-meal
Many verses are omitted entirely, and others transposed ; from whence invincible obscurities have arisen, past the guess of any commentator to clear up, but just where the accidental glimpse of an old edition enlightens us.
Some characters were confounded and mixed, or two put into one, for want of a competent number of actors. Thus in the quarto edition of Midsummer Night's Dream, A& V, Shakespeare introduces a kind of master of the revels called Philoftrate : all whose part is given to another character (that of Egeus) in the subsequent editions : so also in Hamlet and King Lear. This too makes it probable that the prompter's books were what they called the original copies.
From liberties of this kind, many speeches also were put into the mouths of wrong. persons, where the author now seems chargeable with making them speak out of character: or sometimes perhaps for no better reason, than that a governing player, to have the mouthing of some favourite speech himself, would snatch it from the unworthy lips of an underling.
Prose from verse they did not know; and they accordingly printed one for the other throughout the volume.
Having been forced to say so much of the players, I think I ought in justice to remark, that the judgment, as well as condition, of that class of people was then far inferior to
what it is in our days. As then the playhouses were inns and taverns (the Globe, the Hope, the Red Bull, the Fortune, &c.) so the top of the profeffion were then mere players, not gentlemen of the stage: they were led into the buttery by the steward, not placed at the lord's table, or lady's toilette : and consequently were entirely deprived of those advantages they now enjoy, in the conversation of our nobility, and an intimacy (not to say tenderness) with people of the first condition.
From what has been said, there can be no question but had Shakespeare published his works himself (especially in his latter time, and after his retreat from the stage) we fhould not only be certain which are genuine, but should find in those that are, the errors lefsened by fome thousands. If I may judge from all the diftinguishing marks of his style, and his manner of thinking and writing, I make no doubt to declare that those wretched plays, Pericles, Locrine, Sir John Oldcaftle, Yorkshire Tragedy, Lord Cromwell, the Puritan, and London Prodigal, cannot be admitted as his. And I should conjecture of some of the others, (particularly Love's Labour's Loft, the Winter's Tale,and Titus Andronicus) that only some characters, fingle scenes, or perhaps a few particular passages, were of his hand. It is very probable what occafioned fome plays to be supposed Shakespeare's was only this, that they were pieces produced by unknown authors, or fitted up for the theatre while it was under his administration; and no owner claiming them, they were adjudged to him, as they give frays to the lord of the manor : a mistake which (one may also observe) it was not for the interest of the house to remove. Yet the players themselves, Heminges and Condell, afterwards did Shakespeare the justice to reject those eight plays in their edition, though they were
then printed in his name, in every body's hands, and a&ted with some applause (as we learn from what Ben Johnson fays of Pericles in his Ode on the New Inn.) That Titus Andronicus is one of this class, I am the rather induced to believe, by finding the same author openly express his contempt of it in the Induction to Bartholomew Fair, in the year 1614, when Shakespeare was yet living. And there is no better authority for these latter sort, than for the former, which were equally published in his life-time.
If we give into this opinion, how many low and vicious parts and passages might no longer reflect upon this great genius, but appear unworthily charged upon him? And even in those which are really his, how many faults may have been unjustly laid to his a count from arbitrary additions, expunctions, trantpofitions of scenes and lines, confusion of characters and persons, wrong application of speeches, corruptions of innumerable passages by the ignorance, and wrong corrections of them again, by the impertinence of his first editors ? From one or other of these considerations, I am verily persuaded, that the greatest and the grofleft part of what are thought his errors would vanish, and leave his character in a light very different from that disadvantageous one in which it now appears to us.
- This is the late in which Shakespeare's writings lie at present; for fince the abovementioned folio edition, all the reft have implicitly followed it, without having recourse to any of the former, or making the compari'on between them. It is impoflible to repair the injuries already done him; too much time has elapsed, and the materials are too few. In what I have done I have rather given a proof of my willingness and desire, than of my ability, to do him j itice. I bave discharged the dull duty of an editor, to my best judg.
ment, with more labour than I expect thanks, with a reli. gious abhorrence of all innovation, and without any indul. gence to my private sense or conjecture. The method taken in this edition will fhew itself. The various readings are fáirly put in the margin, so that every one may compare them; and those I have preferred into the text are constantly ex fide codicum, upon authority. The alterations or additions which Shakespeare himself made, are taken notice of as they occur. Some fuspected passages which are excessively bad, (and which seem interpolations by being so inserted that one can entirely omit them without any chasm, or de. ficie.ce in the context) are degraded to the bottom of the page, with an asterisk referring to the places of their insere tion. The scenes are marked so diftinctly, that every removal of place is specified; which is more necessary in this author than any other, since he shifts them more frequently: and sometimes without attending to this particular, the reader would have met with obscurities. The more obfelete or un. usual words are explained. Some of the most shining pafsages are distinguished by commas in the margin ; and where the beauty lay not in particulars but in the whole, a star is prefixed to the scene. This seems to me a shorter and less oftentatious method of performing the better half of criticism (namely the pointing out an author's excellencies) than to fill a whole paper with citations of fine passages, with general applauses, or empty exclamations at the tail of them. There is also subjoined a catalogue of those first editions by which the greater part of the various readings and of the corrected passages are authorised, (most of which are such as carry their own evidence along with them.) These editions now hold the pla.e of originals, and are the only materials left to repair the deficiencies or restore the corrupted sense of the author : I can only wish, that a greater number of them (if a greater were ever published) may yet be found, by a search more successful than mine, for the better accomplishment of this end,
I will conclude by saying of Shakespeare, that with all his faults, and with all the irregularity of his drama, one may look upon his works, in comparison of those that are more finished and regular, as upon an ancient majestick piece of Gothick architecture, compared with a neat modern building : the latter is more elegant and glaring, but the former is more strong and more folemn. It must be allowed, that in one of these there are materials enough to make many of the other. It has much the greater variety, and much the nobler apartments, though we are often conducted to them by dark, odd, and uncouth passages. Nor does the whole fail to strike us with greater reverence, though many of the parts are childish, ill-placed, and unequal to its grandeur,